Courts and practitioners will have to consider the long-term care and needs of a child when making decisions on adoptions and care orders now the Children and Social Work Bill is law.
The Children and Social Work Bill received Royal Assent meaning the Queen has approved the proposals and enshrined them in law.
The new legislation states that for care orders, the plan needs to set out the impact on the child concerned of any harm that he or she suffered or was likely to suffer, the current and future needs of the child and the way in which the long-term plan for the upbringing of the child would meet those current and future needs.
The Children and Social Work Act also sets out that a new bespoke regulator, Social Work England, will take over the regulation of social work professionals from the Health and Care Professions Council. The HCPC regulates 16 different professions including occupational therapists and physiotherapists. However, the new regulator will be independent from government after initial proposals to take social work regulation within government was met with criticism from the sector.
Under the new legislation the Secretary of State will publish improvement standards for social workers and ensure the adequate provision of social work training. In addition, care leavers must be provided with personal advisers to the age of 25.
Both relationship and sex education and PSHE will be made mandatory under the new Act.
However, the most controversial part of the Bill, the exemption clause which would allow local councils set aside children's rights to test new ways of working have been dropped from the Bill during its passage through Parliament.
Education minister Edward Timpson told Parliament: “This Bill represents an important step forward for vulnerable children. It defines what good corporate parenting looks like, and secures the involvement of the whole council in looking out for children in care or leaving care.
“It also paves the way for a new system of assessment and accreditation, which will give social workers opportunities to develop and progress in their profession.”
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There has been a rise in the number of cases starting in the family courts as there were 66,357 new cases in April to June 2021, up 14% on the same quarter in 2020, according to Ministry of Justice figures.
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